The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) commended the United States declaration on the Donald Trump administration’s last full day that China has committed genocide against Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic and religious minorities.
Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced Jan. 19 his determination that China, at the direction of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), is guilty of genocide against the minority groups in Xinjiang, a region in the northwest part of the world’s most populous country. The crimes against humanity have included imprisonment or detention of more than 1 million people, torture of many detainees, forced sterilization, coerced labor and repression of freedom of religion, Pompeo said.
“I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs by the Chinese party-state,” an effort that goes back to at least early 2017, Pompeo said in a written statement.
“We will not remain silent,” he said. “If the Chinese Communist Party is allowed to commit genocide and crimes against humanity against its own people, imagine what it will be emboldened to do to the free world, in the not-so-distant future.”
ERLC President Russell Moore said China’s crimes are “clearly genocide.”
“I welcome the State Department’s recognition of it as such,” he said in written comments. “The world must not turn our eyes away from this genocide against human beings made in the image of God. I pray that President-elect [Joe] Biden and Secretary-designate [Antony] Blinken will have great success in rallying our nation and our allies to stand against this injustice. We can never again allow genocide to go unnoticed and unanswered.
“In addition, I urge the business community to take seriously what is happening to this imperiled religious minority,” Moore said. “Few issues these days seem to transcend our country’s partisan divisions, but this should be one of them.”
The ERLC has brought attention to China’s atrocities against the Uyghur Muslims, as well as other minorities, and called for U.S. action to stop them.
In a Dec. 9 letter, Moore urged Pompeo to designate China’s repressive acts in Xinjiang as genocide.
“The world can no longer ignore the cries of the Uyghur people,” Moore wrote. “Making a formal atrocities determination is a crucial step towards administering justice to the Uyghur people, and will galvanize other nations around the world to join our efforts to end the genocide taking place in Xinjiang.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said the Trump administration “did the right thing” with the genocide designation.
In a written release, Rubio described China’s crimes as “a human tragedy that demands an immediate international response. These determinations are a call to action for the incoming administration, Congress, and our allies. We must ensure that the U.S. and free nations do all we can to end these atrocities and ensure that it remains a priority of our nation’s China policy.”
Rubio is co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China and co-author of two pieces of legislation designed to aid the Uyghurs.
The bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom applauded Pompeo’s genocide determination and said, “The American government must do more to hold China to account and to end this genocide. The incoming Biden administration has the unique opportunity to continue the hard work of confronting China’s atrocities.”
Under a 1948 United Nations treaty, genocide is defined as murder and other acts with the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”
As part of its oppressive practices, the CCP tracks Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang by means of a high-tech surveillance system that has obtained genetic data on many residents, according to reports. Activity considered suspicious by CCP officials can result in detention in “re-education” camps. Life in the camps can result in indoctrination, as well as rape, torture and coercive organ harvesting. Uyghur women are also at the mercy of a population control program of forced abortions and sterilizations.
The ERLC, which hosted a webinar in August on China’s oppression of the Uyghurs, is among the organizations that have previously commended the Trump administration’s response to China’s oppression of the Uyghur Muslims.
President Trump signed into law in June 2020 the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, which called for the administration to impose economic sanctions and visa bans on Chinese authorities who are responsible for the oppression of Uyghur and other Muslims. In July 2020, the Department of Treasury announced two sets of sanctions on senior Chinese officials and entities under a federal law known as the Global Magnitsky Act.
The Department of Homeland Security blocked Jan. 13 the import of cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang in the Trump administration’s latest action to prevent items made with forced labor from entering the United States.
In October 2019, the State Department and Commerce Department announced visa and export restrictions on individuals and organizations, respectively, involved in persecution of the Uyghurs.
The House of Representatives passed nearly unanimously in September the ERLC-endorsed Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, a congressional proposal that would have barred products made with forced labor in Xinjiang from being introduced into the U.S. market. The Senate failed to vote on the bill before the end of the congressional session. Some major U.S. corporations opposed the legislation, according to various news reports.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)